Si Phan Don which translates to Four Thousand Islands, is an island group located in the Mekong River in Southern Laos. Si Phan Don comprises of numerous islands of varying sizes, some of which get submerged during the monsoon. The four main islands in the group are Don Kong, Don Khon, Don Det and Don Som
The highlight of Si Phan Don is Khone Phapheng, the most significant falls in Southeast Asia. It is one of the most visited destinations in Laos by tourists who head to the famous Don Det and Don Khon to enjoy the Mekong river life, and watersports.
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Donkhone Somphamit Waterfalls: Also known as Mekong Falls is a majestic waterfall located on the island of Don Khone. There is a small beach nearby where you can take a swim in the freshwater of the Mekong. The falls are the largest in the entire Southeast Asia region.
Khon Pa Soi Falls: Located on the island of Don Po Soi, Khon Pa Soi Falls are one of the most beautiful waterfalls on these river islands.
To get to the waterfall, you need to cross the old bridge and trek for 200 meters to get to the waterfall. At the base of the waterfall, there is a plunge pool where you can take a dip in the water. The entrance ticket costs 35,000 LAK.
Khone Phapheng Waterfalls: Khone Phapheng is a majestic sight to behold. However, the entry fee at 55000 LAK is a little pricey. The whole area is well developed for tourists as there are several cafes and restaurants around where you can sit and relax.
Wat Khon Tai: Located on the island of Don Khon, Wat Khon Tai is a Buddhist temple popular among the tourists. Here you will see ancient stupas and the remains of even older Khmer shrine.
Go biking: While you are on one of the islands, you can rent a bike and see around. It is also possible to do a bit of island hopping as a bridge connects the two islands of Don Det and Don Khon. The bridge is a rickety railway bridge, a remnant of the old French colonial times.
Boating: The Mekong river is ideal for boating; you can easily hire a local boatman for a low price and enjoy the tranquillity of the river. It costs about 20 to 40 USD for these boat tours, which is dependent on the number of people and the tour type, which includes sunset tour, day tour and slow boat trips.
Dolphin Watch: The Mekong River is home to the freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins. You can join one of the several tours for watching these endangered dolphins. The tours cost about 30 to 50 USD per person for a group tour, which takes about 1 hour, and slightly more if you opt for a private tour.
Day 1: Plan your trip to all the waterfalls by renting a motorbike.
Day 2: Take dolphin tour and then head to Wat Khon Tai. Spend the evening taking a sunset tour in the Mekong.
Si Phan Don is a destination best suited for travellers who are trying to get away from the hustle-bustle of the city and wanting to spend time in nature. The islands are a great place to enjoy nature and participate in adventure activities like Kayaking, trekking, biking and boating. Though the guesthouses on the island are not luxurious, they are affordable fitting in an average traveller's budget.
Some of the attractions have a high entrance fee, and if you are visiting multiple attractions, these costs can accumulate quickly. Also, it is not worth visiting if you are short on time and have just a day or more. The travel to Si Phan Don also requires time.
Paske is the nearest biggest town to the Si Phan Don islands. The best way to reach Pakse is by bus. Regular buses and minivans are available from cities like Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Vang Vieng, which takes between 8 to 10 hours.
There are 4 bus stations in Pakse, which connects the town with other smaller cities too. The bus ticket varies between 20 to 30 USD per person depending on the city of departure. You can also get there by renting a taxi for about 200 USD. There are flights to Pakse from Vientiane, Bangkok, Siem Reap and Luan Prabang.
You can easily reach Si Phan Don islands by bus or songthaew from Pakse. The bus leaves around 8 in the morning and costs around 70,000 LAK. A cheaper option is to catch songthaews from Pakse's southern bus station. Take Ban songthaew to Nakasang if you are going to Don Det or Don Khone, and to Ban Khinak if you are going to Don Som. The fare to either of these places is 40,000 LAK.
There are also direct buses from Siem Reap, Phnom Penh in Vietnam which takes around 7-8 hours for the entire journey.
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